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Review: EITAN KATZ- UNPLUGGED

by Just a Fan November 02, 2010

[Editors Note: JMR welcomes a new writer to our website. Please give a warm welcome to Justa Fan. JF is a longtime JMR reader and will now contribute reviews to the site. If you have a CD you'd like her to review please email at justafan@jewishmusicreport.com]

EITAN KATZ- UNPLUGGED

The reason I’m bringing this CD up now is because Eitan Katz is scheduled to be coming out with a new CD (an Unplugged 2, though maybe not by name) around Hanukkah. And for those of you who didn’t know, Hanukah is super early this year. I’m really looking forward to its release but no matter how good it is, I’m not going to stop listening to this album.

This is one of the first Jewish CDs I ever got, and it remains at the top of my list. In short, Eitan Katz remakes 10 Shlomo Carlebach songs. Some of them are well known but there are others that many avid Carlebach fans never knew. My friend and I  tried requesting this version of “Odcha” twice, and we were never successful. Granted, the Eitan Katz CD was pretty new then. Nobody knew the tune we were talking about, and we couldn’t tell them since we are both female and they weren’t. I tried singing it in one of their wife’s ears, but since I was really new to Judaism at the time I didn’t know what the words were and said something like “baaataaeeelieeeshoe-o!”. So that didn’t work out too well.(If you’ve heard the song, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you should hear it!).

Anyway, it’s an overall great CD. It’s easy and pleasant to listen to. There are no loud banging instruments and the guitar is beautiful. Eitan Katz has a great voice that’s relaxing (without being boring, which is big for me). He sings with a lot of feeling and from the heart. I also like that all of the lyrics are things most people would know. On one side, even when he sings a little fast, I can pick out the individual words because I know them from davening, and not being fluent in Hebrew, I like that I therefore know what the words mean. But to be honest, being someone who didn’t grow up religious, this CD actually helped me learn the davening in Hebrew! I was adding parts of the Shemoneh Esrei one by one and when I found Vesechezena, among others,  it was a huge relief! Not only did I pick it up much more quickly, but now I could sing along, too.

Something else that I really like is that Eitan Katz has his own style. If your iPod is on shuffle, and one of his songs comes on, you know that it’s his right away. The entire album goes together and every song is of the same theme. He manages to do that while keeping all the songs different enough to make the whole album (very) worth it. With everybody using iPods and putting things on shuffle and making playlists and whatnot…a theme definitely isn’t necessary. But with this CD, I really appreciate it.

So here’s a run through, song by song…

I don’t want this to sound negative in any way, but it’s sort of hard to review this CD because the songs are similar. With every song I could say that it’s calming, has beautiful harmonies, and that his voice is great. That’s not to say once you’ve heard a song you’ve heard them all, but reading about and hearing something is not the same.

1- Yisborach Shimcha

Simple and repetitive lyrics, but not boring. Changes it up at just the right times.

Beautiful harmonies at 1:50-2:07

Music interlude—pretty music, but I prefer singing (maybe because I like to sing along, it’s hard to do that with guitar)

Overall: Great song– soft but not slow and very calming

2- Shuvi Nafshi

One of the slowest songs on the album– I prefer faster ( I listen to music a lot on my drive home late at night)

More beautiful harmonies. This is a theme throughout the CD…

Somehow manages to put a lot of feeling into singing when he is only saying “Dah dah dah” This is also a theme throughout the CD. It is very true to the Carlebach style and it works great for Eitan Katz as well!

Overall: Beautiful, but not not one of my favorites.

3- Al Tirah

One of the best songs on the album… I walk around the house singing it!

Great lyrics…okay, I know Eitan Katz didn’t write them, but good choice!

Upbeat, yet serious…always puts me in a good mood

Almost a minute of “Ay da di di…” which prevents the potential for it to sound repetitive

My favorite part is when the music takes the back seat for a harmony around 3:06-3:15

Overall:  Eitan Katz managed to really capture the meaning of the lyrics! I think that if someone didn’t know what the words meant, there’s a good chance they could figure it out. Absolutely amazing song. One of my favorites.

4- Barcheinu Avinu

Very slow and long intro (singing starts at 1:09)

Tempo picks up a lot at 2:15, at the perfect time, and though it’s a big change, its smooth

Some of the best harmonies on the entire album

Singing all the way to the very end of the song

Overall: There is nothing I don’t love about this song. I think it’s my favorite on the album. I remember when I was first starting to daven in Hebrew, and for the first time I recognized these words. I have an emotional connection to the song, I guess, but hey, look at the words, we all should! Everything about it is absolutely beautiful.

5- Gam Ki Elech

Faster and more upbeat songs with a fun tune

Starts out with just a simple guitar, but even when the rest of the music comes in, it’s still simple

I love that these words are in so many different tunes and versions that are popular right now and it never gets old!

Overall: Very simple yet beautiful and a great driving song!

6- Vesechezena

Beautiful strings in the beginning, sort of sounds like in romance times/ a little Celtic??

Probably the fastest song on the CD

Very little of the song doesn’t have singing in it, and the only significant part without singing is an interesting instrumental part and not just your basic guitar and drum

The best dancing song on the album! Makes you want to AT LEAST clap along

Overall: I love love love this song. It seems a lot of time we have to chose between a song being “fun” or being “beautiful/meaningful/etc.” . Being a fun loving person, I don’t like that…but this song really is the best of both worlds!  It is also a very fast song while being calming at the same time.

7- Ki Lishuascha

Another one of the slowest songs on the CD

Part of the background music sounds like a wind-chime and part sounds like rain. It reminds me of sitting on the front porch in the summer.

Really shows off his vocal range in this one (the chorus is very high)

Overall: Like I said, I will almost always prefer faster songs. If you knew me, you’d see why. It’s in my personality. Because of that, this one is not one of my favorites. I must say, though, that I think it’s in the slower songs that Eitan Katz is able to best show his emotion.  He really pours his heart out in this one. On a drive home at night, I do have to skip this one, but it is a beautiful song.

8- Odcha

The intro is ethnic (almost jungle) sounding and makes this song really stand out on the album in a good way, and those ethnic sounding drums stay throughout the song

One of the fastest songs on the album

Also has a high chorus and AMAZING harmonies

Shortest song on the album, and I wish it were longer

Overall: It’s a really fun song with a lot of feeling. I really like that it has a different–but not too different- feel. In other words, it still goes with the rest of the CD. It’s not a random trumpet and electric guitar song thrown onto an acoustic CD.

9- Niggun Neshoma

Even as someone who didn’t grow up religious, I thought “I know this song!” as soon as I heard it

Niggunim are nice, but since Eitan Katz sort of puts them into the other songs as well, I would have preferred another song with words instead. We have so many beautiful lyrics already written for us.

Probably the simplest song on the album, but still manages to incorporate a lot of great harmonies

Overall: Like I said, I prefer lyrics, and for me niggunim get a little repetitive, but this is still a good song.

10- Ma Tovu

Along with Ki Lishuascha and Shuvi Nafshi, the other slowest song on the album

Love the violins (or viola? What instrument is this? Did I mention I’m not an expert?) in the intro that continue throughout the whole song. Music is especially pretty in this song.

I think this song might be a little too slow for me

Like the other two slow songs, very emotional song

Very soft and delicate…I feel like the way these words are sang in this song, it is a true praise to Hashem and the Jewish people

Overall: For someone looking for a song that is very moving, this is it. It’s not recommended for in the car. It is beautiful, calming, and almost lullaby like.

Favorite (can I say best? ) songs:

Al Tirah, Barcheinu Avinu, Vesechezena, Odcha. .

Favorite things about the CD:

The common feel throughout the album– the clear Eitan Katz style

Eitan Katz’s voice!

The passion he sings everything with

The acoustic feel to the CD– don’t hear any horns, distortion, or heavy drums

Incorporates a lot of nonconventional instruments

Well balanced with a few really slow songs, a few really fast songs, and the rest in between

Least favorite things about the CD:

Some of the songs have a little bit too much instrumental for me

Would have like another very fast song like Odcha and Vesechezena

Maybe I just wish this CD were longer…although it’s not particularly short…I  guess I need to be more patient for the next Unplugged CD.

Overall: I can’t imagine anyone regretting getting this CD. It’s fantastic.

Just a Fan
Just a Fan


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